Earlier this year, the United Nations Environment Assembly adopted a resolution concerning animal welfare.
Hosted by the UN Environment Program, the UN Environment Assembly brings together representatives of the 193 member states of the UN, businesses, civil society, and other stakeholders to establish policies that address the world’s environmental challenges. The theme of this year’s session was “Strengthening Actions for Nature to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” highlighting the pivotal role nature plays in our lives and in social, economic, and environmental sustainable development. The gatherings serve as an opportunity for member states to share best practices for sustainability, with the goal of creating momentum for governments to impact multilateral efforts to protect and restore the natural world upon which economies and societies depend.
The animal welfare resolution acknowledges that animal welfare can contribute to addressing environmental challenges, promoting the “One Health” approach, and achieving sustainable development goals. The resolution specifically finds that the health and welfare of animals, sustainable development, and the environment are connected to human health and wellbeing. It further asks the UN Environment Program to:
- Produce a report on the connection between animal welfare, the environment, and sustainable development by analyzing the nexus of those fields, identifying key partners and stakeholders to consult, and preparing a summary of the findings for consideration by UN member states.
- Submit the report for peer review by member states.
- Work in partnership with members of the World Health Organization, World Organization for Animal Health, and Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (aka, the Tripartite Alliance) , including on matters related to animal welfare and its connection to human health and the environment, through the One Health approach.
- Report its findings to the Environment Assembly in its February/March 2023 session.
“One Health” is a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach that recognizes the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment. It is employed at the local, regional, national, and global levels, with the goal of achieving optimal health outcomes. According to the World Organization for Animal Health, health risks are increasing due to trade globalization, climate change, and changes in human behavior, which provide opportunities for pathogens to develop and evolve into novel forms resulting in new risks to both human and animal health. COVID-19, which resulted from a potential animal origin, underlies the value of the One Health concept in understanding and confronting global health risks with the cooperation of the animal, human, and environmental health sectors.